Prison reality TV doesn't include get out free card

I was disappointed when I found out the reality TV show proposed for a Nevada state prison was going to be about the guys in the auto shop at Southern Desert Correctional Center outside Las Vegas.

I was hoping they would come to Carson City. But no. Everything has to be about Las Vegas, even the prisons.

Most of all, though, I was disappointed in the premise. Guys repairing cars for Prison Industries? C'mon ...

If I were producing a reality show inside a Nevada prison, I would take 10 lifers and send them through a series of competitions for the right for one of them to go free.

The razor-wire dash. Shiv-making. Dope-on-a-rope. Swimsuit and tattoo contest. Miss Congeniality. Tunneling.

You know, practical stuff.

If we had a Death Row in Carson City, there could be a version of "Let's Make a Deal." Guess what's behind Door No. 3.

The twist at the end - there's always a twist at the end in TV reality shows - would be that the winning inmate doesn't actually get to go free. So sue us.

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My theory on the popularity of TV reality shows is that they are sports for people who don't like sports.

They set up the competitions, concoct plot lines to create good guys and bad guys, throw in some elements of "luck," and, basically, they've got a football game going on. People just don't recognize it because it's happening on a beach on some island somewhere or in a corporate boardroom.

Pro wrestling figured this out a long time ago. Keep it suspenseful but utterly predictable.

Here's one thing most pro sports could learn from reality TV and game shows: Only the winner gets paid.

Like rodeo and golf, more pro athletes should be taking home a paycheck only if they win. This business of paying some guy $10 million a year just to show up takes all the excitement out of it.

Imagine "Survivor" where everybody's guaranteed $1 million just to play, and the winner gets an extra $50,000 and a nice ring. Who would watch that?

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Sometimes I've gotta pass along a press release just the way it arrived at the Appeal. Here's this week's topper:

"IRVINE, Calif. - It never fails. Frustration mounts while you're out with the kids and 'nature's call' turns to 'nature's scream' from the back seat. There's no restroom available, or if there is, it's either occupied or grotesquely unsanitary. Panic sets in as your children insist they've got to go potty ... now!

"Don't wait for an emergency to be prepared for one. Finally, the civilized, child-friendly, anytime, anywhere solution to PEEmergencies is here. Just in time for summer travel, the new TravelJohn(tm) Jr. Disposable Potty, from Reach Global Industries, Inc., will be the essential disposable potty kit you won't want to be without.

"TravelJohn(tm) Jr. utilizes the ingenious LIQSORB(r), a patented pouch that instantly absorbs, deodorizes and disinfects while magically solidifying liquids into a spill proof gel. Compact and leak proof, it can be used by the entire family and is perfect for the immediate needs of children ... even for car sickness.

"It's able to hold up to 20 fluid ounces, and the volume indicator lets you know when it's nearly full. There is a specially designed spill guard that prevents back flow, and a unisex collar makes it perfect for that much needed relief - whether sitting or standing. Like the TravelJohn(tm) Disposable Urinal for adults, TravelJohn(tm) Jr. is also eco-friendly and completely biodegradable. Also, the revolutionary LIQSORB(r) uses no active chemicals and is entirely non-toxic."

There's more, including the Web site - - but I think you get the idea.

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A friend of mine, George Tanner, sent me what's described as a Famous Palindrome, by Aaron Belz: "My girlfriend has a freaking weird name: Eman Driewgnikaerfasahdneirflrigym."

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Now if you want real prison reality (as opposed to TV prison reality), you might contact Felipe Rocha, a 29-year-old inmate at Pelican Bay State Prison in California.

He was eating a prepackaged vegetarian meal in his isolation cell when he bit into a piece of human finger.

This wasn't a case of a Wendy's-like hoax, unfortunately. The packaging company, G.A. Food Services in Florida, admitted that a 3/4-inch piece of a worker's finger had been sliced off in July 2004. They cleaned the machine but apparently didn't get the chunk of finger.

Rocha did. He's suing for $75,000.

It would give new meaning to the title selected for the Nevada prison show: "Bighouse Choppers."

n Barry Smith is editor of the Nevada Appeal. Contact him at or 881-1221.


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